Story Time with Ailey (Archaeology with a TW for skeletons and ancient infant death)

Hey loves,
Several of you were interested in my archaeology work in Poland from when I was in college. It is still one of my very favorite adventures! I don’t have a career even remotely focusing on archaeology, but it has always been something that I have been interested in.

When I was in college, all of my friends were going to do medical work (I had a lot of premed friends) in Brazil and Guatamala and I had another friend going to South Africa and, honestly, I was jealous and decided that if everyone else was going somewhere, I was too! I love all things medieval so I googled medieval archaeology and found myself on the Slavia Project homepage signing up for field school.

I worked all summer to pay for it, got my passport, and flew around the world myself to Poland to dig up skeletons! It was an amazing trip and I learned a lot about medieval Poland and Polish culture. It’s still one of my very favorite countries!

I spent two weeks learning to excavate skeletons, draw skeletons, how to sift dirt for charcoal and create profiles of the site we were digging. I can’t put my finger on my photos right now, but luckily the website still had one up for from my time there! The skeleton that us pretty center and has a lump of dirt beside it is Betty (a name we gave her… she actually has buck teeth and we called her bucktooth Betty). The pile of dirt beside her is an infant. She most likely died in childbirth. This was not her first child though, because evidence on her hip bones shows she had two others. I did a lot of work with Betty and got to draw her in the site profile.


This site in Poland is in a tiny town called Giecz (it rhymes with “fetch”). They have found some amazing things here… including a royal sword and a vampire burial (not while I was there… that would have been amazing!). I did get to see and handle some bones of a person who had leprosy and learned all about how to identify that disease in bones though!

The people were all amazing and so patient with an education major who probably had no business trying to learn to be an archaeologist in two weeks over the summer! It was amazing to see what all people could learn from a skeleton and to see the respect that these scientist had for these ancient individuals.

The site has come a long way since I was there in 2002. They have written many, many papers on what they have learned and have even been featured on a Discovery Channel show (I have never been able to find it because it was on Discovery International).

I’m including the website in case anyone would like to read more or see what a typical day in the life of a field student is… or maybe you have a wild bone for adventure and fancy a trip yourself… (10/10 recommend!). One day I am going back! Just goes to show you that when you get a wild hair to do something… you never quite know where you’ll end up!


This is awesome, what an incredible experience. Thankyou for sharing this. It must have been fascinating to go on a dig. :partying_face:


Thank you so much for sharing! :black_heart: This is amazing.


@tracyS and @starborn it was hovering the most amazing trip b I’ve ever taken. I went alone, had a whole bunch of travel issues on there and the way home, but I met so many amazing people and learned so much!

The skeletons were incredible., but I also got a lot of other special perks. I am really a history buff and I had just finished taking a class on Christian imagery in art and when I got to one of the museums, there was a whole display on it and I was able to recognize a lot of the symbols on these medieval tiles. The professor taking me around the exhibit, apparently had written a book on all of the tiles, and I was so excited that he went upstairs and got me a copy of his book to keep which I still have it’s in Polish, so I can’t read it, but it still has pictures of each of the tiles. I also went to another museum, and I really wanted to take some photographs which were not allowed but because I was so excited about some of the artifacts, the museum director actually cleared out the entire museum and let me take all the pictures that I wanted to. This particular museum was on an island that had a moat around it. There was a fortress on the island, and they were excavating the water all around. They found a golden thread in the water buried in the mud, and believe that came from one of the kings who visited the stronghold how amazing is it to find one golden thread that is thousands of years old in a moat full of water? I had to have a picture! That was pretty amazing. I also got access to some of the crypts in one of the churches, because I was really excited.


Well said! :grinning:

What a great program and an amazing adventure- thank you so much for your story and the link to the program, Ailey! I couldn’t resist taking a look at the website, and gosh, it looks like an amazing opportunity.

I noticed that the site says that it is open to “all people interested in human osteology”, which is awesome! I see many of these types of programs that are restricted to people currently enrolled in university, so it’s really neat to see a program that encourages learning and exploration to all those interested :blush:

Yay! I hope the opportunity comes soon- and that you have just as wonderful a time on your future adventure as you did on your first! :raised_hands: :airplane: :poland: :sparkles: :blush:

Blessed be!


It really is amazing! I think when they started, it may have been a way to get some extra hands to help… and then it just kind of stuck! As an educator, it was fun (and humbling) to walk into a situation where I knew NOTHING. I didn’t know the language, the geography, any of the vocabulary, the principles, the rules… nothing… and I had to learn everything from the bottom up. That made me a better teacher. I made PLENTY of mistakes, I frustrated SEVERAL people (more than once), but overall, the experience was magnnificent.

I also learned:
Archaeology is really dirty. I don’t think I was clean the whole time I was there.
It’s mostly a lot of repetitive manual labor.
Accuracy matters - I had to level a lot of dirt to make soil profiles and I was REALLY bad at making the ground level. I finally got assigned some other tasks because I just could not get it right!
People have a lot of bones - the head osteologist let me try to put a skeleton together by myself and then laughed and laughed (good naturedly) at my mistakes. My human would have been pretty wonky! Bones out of context are a lot harder to place than you’d think! And getting them on the correct side of the body is tricky! Definitely a skill that has to be practiced!


Mistakes are an open door to learning, and I can see how being in the shoes of the student helps to give new perspective and understanding as a teacher! It really sounds like an all-around amazing experience, and one that I am sure will always be close to your heart :blush::heart:

I bet you did much better than I could do haha- anatomy is a weakness of mine! :sweat_smile: I keep meaning to watch a YouTube video or read a book about it and learn more- understanding more about how our bodies function could only be beneficial wisdom, I think!


Oh wow, what an amazing experience! :clap:

I can’t pretend to know the first thing about archaeology, but that’s really awesome!


Go to field school and then you’ll know! I knew nothing when I went either!


If I ever get the opportunity, I just might! :clap: :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:


TAKE ME WITH YOU!!! :chaos_elmo:

I mean, please? :black_heart:


haha absolutely! (we need to get that chaos Elmo emoji :joy:)


They’ll look very silly emoji size, but let’s do it. :joy: Pick one (or both):




These are amazing :clap: :joy: Did you make the first one, Katerina? If it’s your art (and you give permission for it to be used!) then I can try to emojicize it for use in the forum :grinning:


Sadly, I didn’t. I guess the second one then, since memes can’t be copyright? :sweat_smile:


Memes can be used freely without needing a source- they are meant to be shared en masse, after all! :grinning: That being said, the fact that this one features a certain copyrighted character (Elmo) makes it a bit of grey area when it comes to taking it to make an official forum hosted emoji. I certainly didn’t go to law school, so I think it’s better if we choose to play it safe here.

Although it won’t be a forum-specific emoji, he can still be enjoyed in meme format! May his chaos continue to bless our space :laughing:



Hail Elmo :fire:


Ah, makes sense. Fair enough! :black_heart:


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